Local Fire Chief indicted for perjury related to a DWI incident

An East Montgomery County Fire Chief and his wife were indicted on perjury charges according to a story in the East Montgomery County Observer.

Jody Binnion allegedly lied to a grand jury regarding incidents surrounding his November DWI arrest. The original arrest occurred at 1:30am when the Chief Binnion was stopped by Texas DPS.  Allegedly Binnion called a Deputy Chief of his department to take possession of the vehicle he was driving, which leads to the question, unanswered in the article, “was the Chief driving his duty vehicle” that evening.  Interesting.

I do not represent anyone involved in this matter and this report comes from a published newspaper report.  The full report after the jump:

Porter fire chief, wife arrested for perjury

The chief of the Porter Fire Department and his wife face perjury charges for allegedly lying to a Montgomery County grand jury regarding his driving while intoxicated arrest.

Arrested Tuesday, Jody Binnion, 42, and his wife Rachel, 29, allegedly lied to the grand jury Dec. 1 about a woman they said was with their party while they were drinking before Jody Binnion’s Nov. 4 DWI arrest.

They may have done so, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, because a member of their party drinking with them before Jody Binnion’s DWI arrest is under the legal drinking age.

But Conroe attorney Gilbert Garcia, who is representing Jody Binnion, said the fire chief is not guilty.

“We are actively going to engage the District Attorney’s Office and fight this in court,” he said Tuesday night. “We are aggressively going to fight the allegations. The truth will come out.”

An attorney of record could not be located for Rachel Binnion.

Jody Binnion was booked into the Montgomery County Jail early Tuesday afternoon and held on a $750 bond, according to jail records. Booking information on Rachel Binnion was not available.

Each faces third-degree felony charges of aggravated perjury.

The fire chief originally was arrested for DWI around 1:30 a.m. Nov. 4, when a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper pulled him over on a traffic stop in Porter about a mile from his home.

Jody Binnion, who refused to take a breath test, according to the DPS, has denied he was driving drunk. He has served as Porter fire chief since 2003 and has been with the department for 20 years.

The Binnions were at the Player’s Bar in Porter before Jody Binnion was arrested for DWI, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, and the bartender told investigators the party also included Daniel Gunnels, Brandon Johnson – Rachel Binnion’s brother – and two other females. All were drinking alcohol on Jody Binnion’s credit card tab, the affidavit states.

On Nov. 8, Gunnels and Rachel Binnion testified before a grand jury, with Rachel Binnion naming a couple and another woman, not named by the bartender, as the only people present with her, Jody Binnion and Gunnels at Player’s Bar.

The couple named by Rachel Binnion as being present at the bar with her party testified Nov. 17 before a grand jury. They stated they were not present, and “they did not know why Rachel Binnion testified to the contrary,” the affidavit states. The woman Rachel Binnion testified was with her party also testified that day and said she was not at the bar.

“(The woman) testified that Rachel was concerned about law enforcement finding out that Brandon Johnson and his underage girlfriend were actually the ones with Jody and Rachel at Player’s Bar that night,” the affidavit states. “(The woman) testified that she told Rachel that she would not lie for Jody and Rachel. (She) stated that both Rachel and Jody made phone calls to (the woman) on her cell phone on Nov. 16, encouraging her to give false testimony at the grand jury.”

Johnson’s girlfriend is 19, according to Public Data.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s investigator who filed the affidavit went to the woman’s residence later that day to discuss the conversations she had with both the Binnions before testifying, and she agreed to call both of them, record the call and act as if she went along with their plan to lie to the grand jury, the affidavit states.

She could not reach Jody Binnion. But when she called Rachel Binnion and said she had told the grand jury what Rachel asked her to say, Rachel assured her nothing should happen to her and “You have no way to get in trouble, there is no way possible” and, “They cannot prove that you did (lie),” the affidavit states.

Rachel Binnion also allegedly told the woman she and Jody “owe (the woman) big time.”

The Binnions and Johnson testified to the grand jury Dec. 1, with Rachel telling grand jurors she had lied about the presence of the other couple at the bar. But, she testified again that the woman was at the bar, even after being confronted with the recorded phone call, the affidavit states.

Johnson testified that he arrived at the bar and left about 90 minutes later with his girlfriend, who arrived to pick him up. He did not mention the same woman who his sister allegedly asked to lie.

Jody Binnion also testified to the grand jury that day and told grand jurors that the woman allegedly asked to lie by Rachel was with his party.

“He continued to assert that (the woman) was there even when confronted with evidence that she was not there, such as the recorded phone call …” the affidavit states.

Jody Binnion may face additional charges related to his DWI arrest, officials said.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Binnion was not on duty when he was arrested, but the investigator said he received information the next day that Binnion may have instructed on-duty employees to respond with county-owned equipment to the scene of the DWI offense before his arrest.

“I am familiar with the offenses of abuse of official capacity and official oppression and I knew that Binnion’s conduct might be illegal,” the investigator wrote in the affidavit.

The DPS offense report notes that Deputy Fire Chief David Teverbaugh arrived at the scene of Binnion’s DWI arrest and “took possession of the vehicle that Binnion was driving at Binnion’s request,” the affidavit states.

A grand jury subpoena was issued for Teverbaugh’s county time sheets and payroll records, and it is unknown whether he was on duty when he arrived at the scene, according to the affidavit.

The District Attorney’s Office is looking into potential charges of abuse of official capacity “arising from the situation,” said First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant, who heads the office’s Public Integrity Division. “We’re still looking into whether county equipment and personnel were misused.”

The DA’s Office will be “aggressively pursuing the cases against Binnion and his wife,” Grant said.

“It’s extremely unfortunate when individuals conspire to lie and deceive rather than accepting responsibility,” he said. “Aggravated perjury is not something this office can take lightly.”

If convicted of the third-degree felony charges, Binnion and his wife each face two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

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